Attention online shoppers: Here are a state official’s 10 safety tips

MIAMI – The Grinch’s followers will be on the prowl as Santa Claus helpers take advantage of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday online sales.

Florida Commissioner Nikki Fried, who leads the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, issued a list of tips on Wednesday to help online shoppers stay safe.

“Consumers need to be on the lookout for potential fraud to keep their personal and financial data secure,” Fried said in a statement.

Here is Fried’s list:

1. Verify the site is secure: Before you enter your payment information, verify that the website address begins with https. The S stands for SECURE and means that your information is encrypted before it is transmitted.

2. Decide how to pay: Credit cards give you some protections that other payment methods may not. If there is a problem, the law allows you to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payment while your dispute is investigated. Some companies cap your liability at $50 if someone uses your card without your authorization. Others may waive the charges entirely.

3. Plan ahead by setting a budget: Ask yourself how much you should spend and be sure to include delivery costs in your budget.

4. Determine what is most important to you about the item you are buying: What are the must-have features versus the ones that would just be nice to have?

5. Take a few minutes to compare products: Type the product name into a search engine along with words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Read online reviews from other people who bought the item or from product experts. Look for feedback about how the product works and its overall quality.

6. Look for reviews about the company selling the product. Read information about the company’s reputation and customer service. Don’t rely on just one source for information.

7. Verify the total cost of the product: Check shopping comparison sites to compare the price of the product at different shopping sites. Remember shipping costs and other add-on costs may not be included in the listed price.

8. Look for online coupon codes: Search the retailers’ names with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.”

9. Check out the terms of the deal: Verify when you will receive your order. The law requires sellers to ship the item within 30 days of the sale. Can you get a refund if you must return the item, and who pays the shipping for returns? Is there a restocking fee?

10. Fried’s last tip: If you have a problem with an online purchase or charge, first try to resolve the issue directly with the seller, but if you are unable to come to a resolution, visit this site to file a complaint or call 1-800-435-7352 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Watch related video

What to look out for on Black Friday

Voice-over actor scams scammers

About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.